22 July 2021

Honda Swindon - UK

Honda opened a plant in the UK at Swindon, Wiltshire and in 1992, the Honda Accord started rolling off the assembly line. The Honda Concerto was also UK assembled and that commenced in 1989 but that was produced by MG Rover for Honda. At first things went well with Honda's collaboration with MG Rover but BMW's taking over MGR moved Honda to quickly withdraw from the arrangement. The sad thing about that was both MGR and Honda suffered from the loss of cost savings the arrangement provided.

We all know the mess BMW made of MGR but Honda soldiered on. However, the EU decided to phase out import duties on cars and Honda's sales in Europe were in decline. The Swindon plant was exporting most of its product out of Europe in the form of the new Civic. It was also down to one model which causes cyclical cost issues. The upshot is Honda closes the plant at the end of July 2021. 

Now for some model history. The Accord was assembled effectively from 1993 for nine years and in that time 325,500 were made (36,200 per year). In 1995 Civic assembly was going along nicely and continued down to the end over a 27 year period (one not counted here). The Type R was a highlight of that. The undulating volume averaged out at 76,600 and by the time the factory finally closes its doors, over 2 million will have been produced.

The CR-V SUV came along in the year 2000 but it was 2002 when things got serious. 1,200,000 in all were made. The Jazz made a cameo appearance from 2009 to 2015 with nearly 153,000 units assembled. 

Looking back, it was in the 2000's when the plant was at its most productive, reaching nearly a quarter of a million cars with two models. Beyond that, even with three models the numbers were falling as European sales fell. The final attempt was made with a lone Civic Hatchback made for the global market but the cost effectiveness of that was its downfall. It was cheaper to make the Civic in other plants closer to where they are sold. 

Another chapter of UK car manufacturing had been written and now ended. Many in the UK wouldn't know or care anyway, symptomatic of the culture that pervades modern Britain. Mind you it can't all be blamed on that as Honda's way of succeeding in the European market was increasingly ineffective.   

Toyota Burnaston - UK

Toyota has numerous plants around the world. They have only ever closed one I believe, in Australia. So that gives security to workers knowing that a facility is in doubt each time a model nears the end of its production cycle. 

It started back in 1993 at a time when Japanese car makers were trying to get around duty on cars imported from Japan. The UK was the most popular choice and Toyota was one of three companies that built assembly plants. 

The Carina kicked things off (green shading in the Avensis column). As production ramped up, in due course saloon, liftback and estate models were made. In total 467,000 were assembled at Burnaston before it was replaced by the Avensis. There is an overlap year between models in case you wondered. 

The Avensis was also with three body styles for the next two generations as sales went along very nicely. For the third generation Avensis, the liftback version was dropped. Volume didn't reflect a new model and the model ended in 2018 as buyers deserted the medium car segment. In all 1,936,500 were made in total over three generations. 

Turning our attention to the Corolla / Auris column, which started in 1997 through to today. At first, the numbers were low but by the introduction of the Auris nameplate in 2006 volumes were much stronger. In 2010, a hybrid version was added to the range which has its own column below and the production figure is already included with the Corolla. Initially not that influential but after few years it climbed. By 2020, it accounts for nearly all the production of the Corolla.

4.6 million cars have left the assembly line so far, although current production is below the yearly average of 163,000. It would be more cost effective to have a second model at the plant as has been the case for much of its existence but many factors are involved in such a decision. Maybe in due course a fully electric model will be added. 

21 July 2021

Vauxhall Ellesmere Port - UK

Back in 1964 GM Vauxhall started producing the Viva model at its new Ellesmere Port facility. The Chevette was introduced in 1975 as the Viva was being phased out. Then in 1980, the Astra production commenced to replace the Chevette. The plant became known as the home of the Astra. 

The figures below are for production at the plant as best I could assemble. It is accurate as far as I'm concerned but any corrections are welcome. The Astra car range was complemented by a wagon variant from 2010 and the Astra van, a popular workhorse for commercial operators going back to 1981. It was replaced by the Corsa Combo in 2013. The Vectra was briefly added when it was moved from the Luton plant.  

Below in the chart, the colour shadings are added to show model changes, some of which overlap so are indicative of each series but in change over years would include the former and latter edition. Over 3.6 million vehicles were made in the 30 odd years shown below.  

The problem for a single model plant is a car sales fall as the car ages and then lifts for the new model. This creates uneven production numbers. A second model wasn't an option for the new owner PSA and added to that is the Astra isn't as popular as it was. So could the plant have a future? The new owner promised no plant closures when the Stellantis entity was created and took the reigns.

After several months of uncertainty and with government support, the plant will no longer make the next Astra series but rather an electric van. Volume is expected to be on the 50,000 unit mark, well down on plant capacity but no worse than current Astra numbers anyway. The model involved hasn't been disclosed at the time of typing. 

The plant upgrade includes a new body shop (I could do with one of those), an upgraded assembly line and a battery pack assembly unit. With that sort of commitment, the plant's future seems to be bright after years of uncertainty. 

14 July 2021

Belarus Sales: 2020

I have been sitting on this data, holding back due to its variability at times. Makes can come and go, perhaps depending on if they are affiliated with the importers association BAA or not. I went ahead anyway. Registrations for 2020 were -18% which was a common occurrence with Covid. The '+/-' column below is comparing the market share variance of 2021 with 2020.

Lada is establishing itself at the top despite a poor year, with Geely increasing strongly now in second. Renault is definitiely pulling back on volume as may be the case with VW too. UAZ popped up out of nowhere to claim 10th spot, confirming my comment on unusual variability. 

10 July 2021

Tesla's Recent History In Quarters : 2016-2021

I have to say that Tesla has defied the odds in getting this far. They benefitted from starting from scratch, both in focus, product and assembly plants that were designed specifically for electric cars. That could also have been a negative in that they had to get all those factors just about right or blow their chance. 

Below in the chart, I've put both deliveries and production side by side. There is a repetition of very similar data but you can choose which is your preference. I'll focus on delivery data here.

In 2016, 76,000 vehicles were delivered with the medium size crossover model named X arriving during the year to support the existing large five-door liftback S. 2017 was up 35% in volume and a good result with the X (picture above) getting a full year under its belt. 

The four-door fastback styled car called the Model 3 was introduced and deliveries went through the roof. An increase of 138% was enjoyed by the company, followed by a more sedate 50% in 2019.

2020 heralded the Y model, a compact crossover. An increase of only 36% was caused by a fall in S and X sales. The combined 3 and Y models were now the volume drivers. The same situation has continued in 2021 with deliveries only 23% behind 2020 with half the year to go. Put another way, deliveries are +116% comparing the first six months of both years.  

So sales for Tesla are continuing at a pace as traditional carmakers are now rushing to catch up with them. The ICE (internal combustion engine) manufacturers haven't had the same singular focus but with many countries ending ICE sales in the near future, they are quickly switching their focal point to electric cars. The real battle has only just begun. 

09 July 2021

Jaguar Sales By Plant : 2015-2021

Jaguar has diversified its production from just one plant in the UK back in 2015 to four plants in three countries.* Castle Bromwich was the sole plant in 2015. In that year the F-Type replaced the XK sports car. The timeline follows from here.

2016: The F-Pace was assigned to Solihull's Land Rover facility. The XFL started up in JLR Changshu, China. 

2017: Changshu was added the XEL and the E-Pace went to the contract manufacturer Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria. 

2018: The i-Pace was added to the Graz assembly, becoming the largest producer of Jaguar vehicles. The E-Pace became the third model at Changshu. 

2020: The XJ ended its long run and the replacement car is unexpectedly not released.

*There is also some assembly in India but that is included in the source plant of the model. The 2021 year is from January to March.

The decision not to put the E-Pace into Castle Bromich seemed a poor decision as it would have provided much-needed volume at that plant. Perhaps at the time, it wasn't possible to add another model to the assembly line. 

Summary: What the future holds for these four assembly plants will be decided by whether Jaguar becomes more niche than it already is.